Hunt School of Dental Medicine Student Profile: Dat Le

Hunt School of Dental Medicine Student Profile: Dat Le

“I see myself traveling around the world and practicing in underserved areas. I know how it feels to have limited access to dental care and the negative impacts that come with it.”

Tell us a little about your background. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

I grew up in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I went to high school there and moved to the U.S. when I was 17 to attend Shoreline Community College in Seattle. After that, I moved to Texas to pursue a degree in biochemistry at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Who or what moment inspired you to go into dentistry?

I was inspired when I saw how braces transformed someone’s appearance, boosting their self-esteem with just the use of tiny metal wires. I had braces that improved my smile and changed my life. So, I dove into researching dentistry, learning all about what the field offers. By shadowing and volunteering at multiple dental clinics, I gained valuable hands-on experiences and powerful insights. I knew this was the career I wanted.

Why is the Hunt School of Dental Medicine the best place for you?

My career goals are focused on improving our dental care system, especially for the underserved. That will start in El Paso, where there’s a critical shortage of dentists to meet the population’s needs. In addition, the Hunt School of Dental Medicine offers an extraordinary curriculum of advanced learning integrated with biomedical sciences and strong clinical skills. Along with the state-of-the-art technology, this is undoubtedly the best place for me.

What challenges have made you who you are?

Being an immigrant in America and pursuing higher education is one of the challenges that have shaped me into who I am today. Arriving in the U.S. alone was one of the hardest days of my life, as was living in a foreign country with no relatives around to help me. I still remember waking up at 5 a.m. in the freezing Seattle winter to catch multiple buses for the two-hour drive to school. But those were also the greatest days of my life meeting many new friends from different cultures and backgrounds. And I was, for the first time, exposed to diversity, which has changed my whole perspective. It taught me to value all voices and ensure my voice is heard.

Do you have any mentors who have helped you along the way?

My family never doubted my abilities, and they always give me continuous love and support, even when I fail, and I’ve failed many times. They’ve always been there for me with encouragement and inspiration.

Have you received any life-changing support you would like to mention?

Without my aunt and uncle, I don’t think I would be here in the first place. They’re the ones who helped my family when we needed it the most. I remember spending all night with my aunt talking about my future when I was 17. I was preparing to move to the U.S., but my family was so poor. I didn’t think I could achieve a higher education because my family was in debt, but they supported our family through our financial hardship so I could attend school and follow my dreams.

What are your interests and hobbies?

I’m an aquarium hobbyist, or “scale parent” is what we call ourselves. Keeping fish and aquatic lives have been a part of my life for several years now. I started small, but then I was struck by the fascinating science of establishing a healthy ecosystem for an aquarium, from water chemistry, species compatibility to plant nutrition, and even artistic perspectives. In the end, an aquarium can make an untraditional companion to ease a hectic life.